Pitchfork in the Road
By chicago_chris in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 12, 2004 6:29PM
If you haven't seen the Reader this week, there's an interesting cover story about a local college student, University of Chicagos Loren Wilson, and his creation of a database that analyzes that Internet bastion of indie-rock coolness, Pitchfork. A Chicago-based website, Pitchfork is something of a guilty pleasure for Chicagoist. The site's staffers are pretentious, high-brow barometers of underground hype the Rolling Stone of the indie world. (And they're just as easy to mock: Check out Popdork, indie label Sub Pop's hilarious parody of Pitchfork.) But their ability to write snarky reviews and expose readers to great unheard bands their tireless cheerleading helped The Wrens, The Unicorns, and Broken Social Scene all achieve semi-fame over the past year definitely appeals to our sensibilities.
Wilson's project, entitled Pitchformula, searches the archives of the site, examining the criteria for what makes a great record according to these undersexed, elitist male hipsters. The results, as with Princeton student Katherine Milkman's recent similar critical survey hers of The New Yorker's fiction pieces are unsurprising. Just like how The New Yorker leans toward stories by and about white, upper-middle class, Northeastern male liberals (duh), the boys club of Pitchfork has a penchant for distorted, melancholic, anti-corporate, guitar-heavy, well-written music (double duh). Wilson has even put his findings into practice by writing a couple of tunes. (Which, shockingly, aren't terrible. He's in what The Onion would sardonically label a "promising local band" Starlister.)
Chicagoist, with our own Rob Gordon-esque obsessions with music (and film and book...) reviews, thinks all this is pretty fascinating, if undeniably nerdy, stuff. Wilson writes on his site, "This project combines a computer science background and a songwriting hobby with an unhealthy obsession for popular music reviews." We think unhealthy is the key word there.